Duke junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon dismissed from the program
DURHAM, N.C. — Less than 24 hours after No. 4 Duke’s third loss of the season and two days before a primetime matchup at No. 2 Virginia, Duke announced via a release Thursday that junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon has been dismissed from the basketball program.
This is the first time head coach Mike Krzyzewski has ever taken the step of dismissing a player from the program. The statement from Krzyzewski, which was in the release, was strongly-worded and direct:
"Rasheed has been unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program," Krzyzewski said.
"It is a privilege to represent Duke University and with that privilege comes the responsibility to conduct oneself in a certain manner. After Rasheed repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations, it became apparent that it was time to dismiss him from the program."
The release added that Sulaimon was in good academic standing and would be expected to finish the spring semester.
The timing seemed odd, since Duke is in the midst of its roughest stretch of the year with a trip to undefeated Virginia on Saturday and Sulaimon was the main sixth man off the bench this season. Duke has been using mostly a rotation of seven, and sometimes eight, players. Only eight Blue Devils average double-digit minutes.
Laura Keeley, Duke beat writer for the Raleigh News and Observer, tweeted that — as the release stated — it was a recurring issue with Sulaimon, and she added that the "final straw" came after the Notre Dame game or during that road trip at some point.
The dismissal was not due to an on-court issue. This is an unprecedented step for Krzyzewski, who has seen players transfer but never outright dismissed anyone. And it will certainly hurt the Blue Devils’ depth in the backcourt.
Over his career, Sulaimon saw his playing time and production slip. He was named to the ACC All-Freshman team and very narrowly missed winning Rookie of the Year after averaging 11.6 points in 29.2 minutes per game.
But that promising freshman season was followed up with an up-and-down sophomore campaign (during which he averaged 9.9 ppg) that saw him become a healthy scratch in a home game against Michigan in December after scoring single digits for six straight games; he then played just five minutes in the next game against Gardner-Webb in garbage time.
He bounced back after that, scoring 21 points (including the game-winner) against eventual ACC champ Virginia at home and hitting double figures 12 times in league play. His three-point percentage improved from 37.1% as a freshman to 41% as a sophomore, but his minutes went down overall from 29.2 to 25.6.
As a junior, Sulaimon’s numbers slipped yet again to 7.5 points per game and 19.3 minutes per game. His emotions seemed to get the best of him at times on the court, but he continued to get playing time and averaged at least 12 minutes in every game this season.
He had started to see his minutes decrease in the last four games, though, in favor of sophomore guard Matt Jones, whose non-statistical contributions on both ends of the court Krzyzewski has lauded unprompted more than once this season.
In what would be his final game as a Blue Devil, Sulaimon scored three points on 1-of-6 shooting. He played in the final 1:40 of Duke’s loss, with the Blue Devils down 73-70 . He made 1-of-2 free throws with Duke down 76-72 to cut Notre Dame’s lead to three, and then missed a three-pointer at the buzzer with Duke down by four.